Volunteers needed to monitor loon population
Volunteers can help Department of Natural Resources biologists discover the major cause of death of the common loon by collecting dead loon specimens for testing. This statewide study to find answers about loon mortality is being conducted by the DNR's nongame wildlife program.
"Small studies have been conducted in the past, but they were limited to looking for high mercury concentrations," said Kevin Woizschke, DNR nongame wildlife specialist and loon watcher coordinator. "This new statewide effort will help answer the big question of what kills our loons. Minnesota's loon population is about 12,000 birds and the numbers appear stable, but there are still questions about loon mortality."
The nongame program is asking for help in collecting loons that recently died with no signs of decomposition or obvious predator trauma. Visibly rotten loons should not be collected.
To collect a specimen for testing, use disposable gloves to put the dead loon in a plastic bag. To reduce disease risk, try to avoid bare-handed contact when handling dead animals. If gloves are not available, turn a plastic shopping bag inside out and scoop up the specimen with the bag.
Place the specimen in a freezer as soon as possible. If a freezer is not available place the specimen in a cooler, surrounded by ice.
It is important to deliver the specimen as soon as possible to a local DNR office. All loons need to be labeled with the name of the county, lake, nearest town where it was found and along with person's name, address and telephone number.
For more information or to locate the nearest DNR officer, call DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.